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Erie Weed and Seed

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					Erie Weed and Seed

2007-8 Quality of Life Program Summary Report

January 4, 2008

Summary
The Erie Weed and Seed program has just completed a very successful year of providing leadership and resources not only to the target area, but also to the larger community as well. The Erie Weed and Seed program has solidified its position in the target area by adopting a more structured approach, and by introducing new and cost effective ideas that are inclusive of a wider range of people. The program continues to expand its role as a facilitator of both monetary resources and information to additional agencies. Our focus in 2007 was to capitalize upon the untapped resources available to the region but were not being effectively utilized to assist Erie. It is especially important to note that the program has established as its top priority increasing the capacity of the City of Erie itself, and the various departments that serve the target area. Within this framework, special emphasis was places on working with the Erie Police Department to initiate a strategic planning process to address a reduced level of personnel and equipment needs resulting from recent fiscal challenges experienced by the city. Another major accomplishment was the solidifying the Aid and TALL Team coordinators position by hiring knowledgeable, motivated professionals who provide a multitude of skills and resources to the program. Each coordinator has brought a refreshing approach to adapting the program to meet the priority needs of the program. We intend to continue to focus on a “two-pronged” approach in 2008 that includes: Law Enforcement/Public Safety “Weeding” 1. Strengthening the partnerships with federal, state, and local enforcement agencies to improve the quality of life within the target area. 2. Increasing the capacity of Erie’s Police Department to process information, provide training and equipment upgrades to officers serving the target area. 3. Continuation of the Safe Passage program that places two police officers at or around McKinley, Wilson, Irving, and Pfieffer-Burleigh schools. The officers patrol for three hours each day from 2 – 5:00pm. 4. Continuation of the 10 week Citizens Police Academy training program on police protocol and best practices. This academy is predicated on the idea that the more the residents know about the Police Department the more help they will be. 5. Additional Customer Service Training for CSO’s to reduce the chronic complaints about the delivery of police services, especially originating out of the target area. 6. Continued saturation/vice/foot/noise Patrols in the target area. These patrols are making a difference in the quality of life, and are reinforcing the existing/developing partnerships between the community and law enforcement officers in the target area. 7. Continued Participation with the Nuisance Bar Taskforce to maintain neighborhood integrity in areas affected by area bars. 8. Continued Participation with the Neighborhood Watch associations to strengthen resident participation in the law enforcement process. 9. Project Safe Neighborhoods program to reduce gun and gang related activities in the target area.

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Social Service/Recreation/Education “Seeding” 1. Micro-Enterprise Program to support economic development by hosting local entrepreneurial educational programs and small business consulting activities for both start-up/pre-venture clients and existing small businesses. 2. Mini-Grants for summer pilot projects to address curfew compliance and create youth recreational activities. They are being offered to non-funded agencies and groups that are located in the target area, especially those that are part of the AID Team as an incentive to continue to fully participate in the program without any funding to support their program needs. 3. Establishing a Project Safe Neighborhoods program to increase the capacity of agencies serving the target area to handle youth violence and gang related issue in the target area. 4. Leveraging of additional funds to match the investment of state and local partners serving the needs of the target area. 5. Continuation of free capacity building and grant writing workshops 6. Increased development of relationships with local and nationally based faith-based programs to increase the capacity of those agencies to work with residents of the target area. 7. Family Fun Nights to promote community development, unity, and to provide structured activities for youth residents of the target area. The program is targeted to youth between the ages of 5 to 14 years old. We developed new In-House Programs that included: 1. Capacity building workshops for agencies and watch groups 2. Mini-Grant program to assist non-funded agencies 3. Neighborhood/Site Tours to promote the positive changes in the target area 4. Weed and Seed Street Signs 5. Holiday food baskets

We will introduce the following programs/projects in 2008: 1. Newsletter for the Target Area promoting neighborhood activities. 2. Website to promote Weed and Seed activities. 3. Capacity-building Partnership with Erie Board of Education

It is our intention to pass the responsibility for organizing and operating many of the program and functions that we provide to the target area to members of the collaborative who can sustain them as we develop additional partnerships or programs to meet the changing needs of the target area.

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Problems/Needs
The Weed and Seed Target Area has an extremely high level of residents living at or below the accepted poverty levels. This is one of the strongest indicators of the social condition of the proposed target area due to the residents’ inability to afford quality housing; pay their basic living expenses; afford quality health care; access transportation to higher paying employment in the surrounding municipalities, or attend schools of higher learning. Problems 1. There is a poverty level of 29% in the target area as compared to the entire City of Erie which is only 14%, and Erie County, which is 12%. Almost all of the census tracts located within the target area have a moderate and low income population of at least 52.9 %. 2. Many of the residents work in positions that do not meet the hourly rate threshold to provide for a sustainable living even with the City of Erie’s extremely affordable living costs. 3. The target area also has an extremely high concentration of minorities living within the neighborhoods. The minority population in the proposed target area is 40.8% as opposed to the overall ratio for the city of Erie, which is 19.4%. 4. The poverty level is also a direct indicator of the housing conditions within the proposed target area. The housing stock within the target area has approximately 58% of the housing units being built before 1950. Many of the units are rental units that have deficient heating systems, lead based paint hazards, poor weatherization, and overcrowding, with more that a one person per room ratio. 5. The rental rate is significantly higher at 69.3% compared to the city’s 43.8%, thus leading to more investment by absentee landlords looking to capitalize upon subsidized housing options, while providing the bare minimum in terms of repair and maintenance to the properties. 6. This has lead to abandonment and illegal use of older housing stock in the target area by individuals interested only in providing temporary locations for drug use and illegal activities. 7. The vacancy rates are higher at 13.3% in the target area, as compared to the city’s 8.9% mainly due to the overall condition of both the housing units and the surrounding neighborhoods. Needs Additional sharing of information between agencies and service providers to deliver a wider array of support while limiting the duplication of services. There is a lack of coordination among the numerous service providers, who in many cases are duplicating services that are provided to many of the same clients. Although extremely efficient at providing for the needs of residents, in many cases, these agencies are becoming “enablers” for the continuation of the current conditions. Creating additional structure, and accountability among providers will dissolve the negative “service islands” made up of agencies and faith-based organizations serving specific target groups and small neighborhood clusters on small competitive scales. Coordinated efforts to reduce the competition for a declining pool of funds will reduce an air of mistrust and insecurity that can only be considered detrimental to the overall health of the entire city at large.

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The city’s financial problems have also led to an increased demand to cover more area with a reduced police force. This increases the response time for police officers to react to criminal activities, while attempting to prioritize the types of crime in relationship to its overall importance to public safety. There are just not enough officers to effectively manage the entire city’s overall public safety needs without drastically increasing the tax burden upon the city residents. This has led some citizens to stop reporting nuisance criminal activities after repeatedly being told that “the limited number of payroll officers are engaged in higher priority activities, and has resulted in skewed statistics related to actual crime versus what is being reported.

Increased accountability for landlords to provide more coverage to their tenants needs and actions than simply collecting rent money from the occupants, and owners of abandoned buildings in the neighborhood that are frequently used as bases of operation for illegal activities.

Goals/Objectives
Law Enforcement: Weeding
The Weed and Seed program intends institute a two-tier plan to continue law enforcement in the target area through coordinated efforts in partnership with federal, state, and local agencies. The focus of those efforts will be to combat drug use and violent crime, reduce gang-related activities, eliminate nuisance bars and problem properties, intensify the activities of the task forces, and enhance the targeted removal of firearms from the designated areas through the use of Project Safe Neighborhoods Program. Strategy Summary:

Goal 1 Objective 1

Eliminate open-air drug trafficking of illegal drugs in the target site Coordinate intelligence on criminal activities, drug activities, arrests, and prosecution of offenders through case-building techniques Number of seized properties/assets returned to the community for productive uses, successful arrests and prosecution of 50% of the 10 worst drug and violent offenders in the target area. Number of cases brought before federal courts and the conviction rates of career and violent criminals. Tracking of worst offenders through the legal system. Reduce the number of illegal firearms in the target site Identify, investigate, and prosecute narcotic traffickers, and convicted felons and other individuals for weapon violations, with an emphasis on drug organizations and individuals with reputation for violence. Number of seized properties/assets returned to the community for productive uses, successful arrests and prosecution of 50% of the 10 worst drug and violent offenders in the target area. Number of cases brought before federal courts and the conviction rates of career and violent criminals.

Outcome Measure

Goal 2 Objective 2

Outcome Measure

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Community Oriented Policing The City of Erie plans to continue using community policing strategies that include the Gang Free Schools, Police Athletic Leagues, and “drug free school zones” to provide a highly visible police presence. These philosophies all establish and maintain a responsive, public presence to citizens, while attempting to neutralize problems as they are anticipated, and fosters the development of an open and trusting relationship between the public and the police to discourage open drug dealing in the designated area. Officers will take a lead role in bridging the gap between the public and law enforcement. Strategy Summary: Goal 1 Objective 1 Outcome Measure Reduce the level of fear of the threat of drug trafficking and drug activity within the designated site. Continue to grow and develop a Community policing strategy within the target site. Number of civilian hours volunteered at storefront facilities within the designated neighborhoods; number of events/community activities that include positive police representation; Deployment hours of the COP foot/saturation patrols in the designated area; training more officers in the COP strategies and techniques; production and distribution of Crime Prevention handbooks and resources. Number of citizen reports/arrests gathered by officers in the target area. Increase citizen participation in law enforcement in the target site Identify, coordinate, and conduct programs that facilitate better citizen and police interaction to reduce crime in the designated site. Number of new residential Neighborhood Watch programs, number of new businesses that join the Business District Watch in the designated neighborhoods. Manpower hours of the CPSO foot patrols in the designated area; training more officers in the CPSO /COP strategies and techniques; production and distribution of Crime Prevention handbooks and resources. Number of program participants in target area. Number of guns removed through purchase or seizure in target area.

Goal 2 Objective 2 Outcome Measure

Social Service/Recreation/Education: Seeding
The Weed and Seed program plans to implement the Social Service/Recreation/Education “Seeding “strategies in the target site. These goals will be accomplished by continuing to partner with and make referrals to recreational, technological, healthcare, training and educational agencies that provide services to the residents the target site. A special emphasis has been placed upon creating linkages between law enforcement and agencies serving special needs: education, employment, families, housing, and health concerns of returning felons and their families to the target area. Additional collaborative grants have been submitted in conjunction with Family Services of North Western PA and GECAC to serve the needs of the returning felons and their families through the Amachi program, and other federal grants that focus on reintegration strategies for returning felons. Strategy Summary: Goal 1 Objective 1 Expand recreational, social, and technological programs and activities within the designated site utilizing PSN and other leveraged resources. Link existing programs and activities to successful strategies of the “Weed and Seed” objectives by marketing/promoting recreational and educational opportunities to youth in the designated area as positive alternatives to drugs

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Outcome Measure

Goal 2 Objective 2

Outcome Measure

and crime. Number of recreational and safe haven facilities open during “peak” hours in target area. The number of human service partnerships developed and linked to the federal Weed and Seed program. The number of adult/youth participants in programs. Number of youth participating in positive programs operating within the target area. Increase the economic, employment, and health of residents of the target site re-entering the community after incarceration Coordinate and provide linkages to employment, job training, vocational, preemployment, drug and alcohol, substance abuse, and human services that are providing services within the target area. Number of educational, social, and training agencies providing services as part of linkage to Weed and Seed in target area. Number of human service partnerships developed/linked to Weed and Seed program. Number of adult/youth participants in programs. Number of residents participating job training, health/wellness, and drug and alcohol treatment programs within the target area.

Timetable

Description of Work Phase One Phase Two Phase Three Recruitment of new agencies/partners and Committee members Strategic Planning and Program Development Program implementation

Start and End Dates January – February 2008 March – June 2008 July – December 2008

Evaluation
Erie has been collecting data on crime reduction and community improvement in our proposed target area as part of an on-going partnership with the county and state police. We have been assessing the impacts of various features of the state sponsored Weed and Seed program. The Weed and Seed program intends to work with members of the various committees and Mercyhurst College’s Public Safety Institute (PSI) to evaluate the effectiveness of the 5 year program. They are the primary provider of public safety instruction in northwestern Pennsylvania. They provide training and education for personnel involved in emergency preparedness for terrorism, catastrophic events, and potentially threatening actions to public safety in cities and towns across the nation. The institute is a $350,000 a year, federally funded project for public safety issues and training. Additionally, PSI performs evaluations and assists in the creation of public policies that help improve the quality of life in many of the cities in the region, including the city of Erie and Erie County. Staff from PSI designed and conducted the initial community survey in 2003 to assess quality of life effects for the initial state sponsored Weed & Seed target site after years of targeted intervention in those areas.

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Policy recommendations will be submitted to PSI staff regarding the continued operation and growth of the program on a monthly/quarterly, and yearly basis for evaluation. Recommendations for adjustments will be shared with our community partnerships, and will be implemented in the proposed federal Weed & Seed target area. Additional surveys and evaluations will be created and distributed to the community partners and target site residents to continuously document the progress of the program. The program manager will be responsible for updating and submitting monthly reports on the program’s progress to the members of the Steering committee. The program objectives and outcome will be discussed in the monthly steering committee and sub-committee meetings to insure that the original goals and objectives are continuously pursued as the program progresses.

Next Steps
2008 bring many new changes to the Erie program, most notably the reduction of funding from $240,000 to $167,000 in total funds. The funding will also be condensed into a single application, formally three (3), the City of Erie will facilitate along with its community partners. The state is adopting the federal model which calls for dedicated goals and objectives, as well as a stricter level of accountability. This is all leading to the eventual open, competitive format that is based the federal guidelines, that Erie has been implementing since 2006. We will also be implementing our own funding protocols, as well as an open Request for Proposals (RFP) in March, to identify competent sub-contractor service providers in conjunction with our next application submission in late May. Thus, it is essential that we continue to develop strategies to provide assistance to those agencies and community partners that will be the most affected by the reduction in funding. Our recently established partnerships with the police and board of the school district of the City of Erie, as well as the funding that will be offered through the partnership with GECAC will provide many of our partners with additional funds. The Erie Weed and Seed Program will continue leveraging resources from various federal, state and local sources, and it will continue to do so to support the efforts undertaken in establishing a Weed and Seed Community. We will continue to use the all of the City and County Departments and Public Authorities to support many Weed and Seed activities that occur within the target area. We will also continue to work with our various partners, each bringing their own unique set of resources to the partnership. Many partners will bring to the table personal “networks” and knowledge of funding sources that may have been unknown to the individual partners of the collaboration. The true art of being successful using the Weed and Seed strategies for positive change in neighborhoods is knowing how to entice community partners that include agencies, educational bodies, and Faith-Based organizations into the partnership with the residents and the law enforcement agencies in structural ways. Establishing those types of partnerships make it beneficial for the new or re-established partners to remain active in the program in more ways than to just obtain “seed” money for projects over the course of the program. As we continue to do this consistently throughout the life

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of the project, new relationships/partnerships will be developed that will continue to strengthen the original Weed and Seed partnership. The Weed and Seed Program plans to identify additional community volunteers, training opportunities, public and private resources to sustain the efforts of the program through well developed, on-going relationships with the neighborhood and its relevant social and business organizations faith-based groups, universities, and in direct conversations with local foundations and private donors. The Weed and Seed program will continue sponsoring free grant writing and grant management workshops in conjunction with the Erie Community Foundation and the Erie United Way to further support the generation of additional sources of revenue and proper maintenance of grant funds. These workshops will be ongoing and open to all agencies seeking to further develop their capacity to serve the target area. Often we will help to broker the development of support relationships between donors and community groups that support the shared objectives of the l Weed & Seed strategy and the community. Through the Office of Economic and Community Development in the City of Erie (the Weed & Seed Project Manager will report directly to the assistant director of that office) we will be in constant communication with representatives of public and private resources who can help to sustain our efforts. The City of Erie will maintain close working relationships, and develop many new relationships with a broad array of individuals and organizations, including members of city, county, state and national executive departments and legislatures to insure that the strategy continues after the initial five years of the program

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